FOUR CAR CRASH ENDS GOOD RUN FOR PAPIS AND THE GEICO TEAM Sonoma, CA (June 20, 2010) -- Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team arrived in Wine Country ready to capitalize on Papis' road course experience. While most people arrive in Sonoma to do...
FOUR CAR CRASH ENDS GOOD RUN FOR PAPIS AND THE GEICO TEAM
Sonoma, CA (June 20, 2010) -- Max Papis and the GEICO Racing team arrived in Wine Country ready to capitalize on Papis' road course experience. While most people arrive in Sonoma to do wine tours, Papis and the #13 GEICO Camry would do a tour of their own around the 1.99-mile road course of Infineon Raceway. This weekend posed the first of two road course races on the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
A year ago, Papis and the GEICO Racing team were on the verge of recording their first Sprint Cup Series Top Five finish before Jeff Gordon made contact with the #13 GEICO Toyota Camry on the final lap, causing a punctured rear tire. Nevertheless, Papis somehow gathered the car and salvaged a 12th place finish in the face of what could have easily been a disastrous result.
Surrounded by hills and vineyards, Sonoma provides one of the most beautiful backdrops in all of auto racing. Papis settled quickly into the majestic environment and quickly shot to the top of the speed charts during the opening practice session, putting the #13 GEICO Camry in the 12th spot, comfortably ahead of any other 'go or go home cars'. His closest threat was Boris Said in the 22nd position.
Qualifying presented a unique set of challenges for Papis, as his wheels locked up multiple times during his trip around the racetrack. Despite the setback, he was able to qualify comfortably for the Toyota Save Mart 350, resting 29th on the event's starting grid, fourth fastest of the 'go or go home' cars, and four positions ahead of where he started a year ago.
Father's Day welcomed Papis to the racetrack on Sunday and with his late father heavy on his heart, he looked to drive with great passion and take the #13 GEICO Camry to the front of the field. Starting 29th, he picked up two positions on the opening lap of the race, but would quickly begin battling a loose racecar. Papis soon radioed to crew chief Bootie Barker, "When I go hard I feel like I'm going to fly off the track." If Papis was handling a touch racecar no one could tell because by Lap 37 he had moved into 14th position.
On Lap 43, things got interesting for Papis when Tony Stewart made contact with the rear of the #13 GEICO Camry, sending it spinning just after Turn 11. Miraculously, Papis gathered the car and continued in the race. On Lap 44, the GEICO Racing team made major adjustments and also outfitted the GEICO Camry with four fresh tires and a tank of Sunoco racing fuel during their scheduled green flag pit stop. Upon leaving the pit box, Papis' voice filled with intensity when he told his crew, "Let's keep attacking! I will give them hell, I promise you!"
By Lap 55, Papis' lap times were nearly a second faster than the leader, Jimmy Johnson. Unfortunately, Papis would not get the opportunity to challenge his good friend for the lead because the restart on Lap 67 found Papis being collected in a major four-car crash involving Martin Truex, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr., and Denny Hamlin. The #13 GEICO Camry sustained major damage and would be forced to retire with a 43rd place finish.
"Today was tough because we were so much better than what you saw out there. After that last stop, the #13 GEICO Camry was really fast, even faster than Jimmie (Johnson, the race leader)," Papis said. "This is racing and these things happen, but the most important thing is that we were competitive and we were on our way to getting another Top 10 finish. I can't thank the guys on this GEICO team enough for all of their hard work. We're getting there and we'll keep pushing."